The Blackhawks have now lost Kim Johnsson, Brian Campbell and Brent Seabrook in consecutive games. The Johnsson injury is still a mystery, but the Campbell and Seabrook injuries were clearly results of players taking shots at the Hawks players.
The refs took Alexander Ovechkin out of the game Sunday, but James Wisniewski skated the entire game against the Blackhawks and got an assist on Anaheim’s fourth goal (to an empty net). It wasn’t until after that goal, with less than a minute left, that newcomer Nick Boynton stepped up and dropped the gloves with the thug for hurting Seabrook.
What gives? Where’s the toughness?
Ben Eager has been ineffective, irrelevant, and lost on the ice for most of this season, but it’s been especially noticeable in the wake of the current losses. Adam Burish is still working his way into game shape and isn’t getting many minutes as the fourth line center. And Colin Fraser has been the victim of the numbers game, being scratched from most games since Burish and Dave Bolland came back from injury.
There is no toughness on the ice for the Blackhawks right now.
So where do the Hawks go from here? Are teams going to continue taking shots at Hawks players, or is someone going to step up, grow a pair, and handle the team’s business? Here are some people that might need to step in and become the physical force the Blackhawks have lacked.
Big Buff is the biggest player on the Hawks roster, but asking him to become too physical would be a mistake at this juncture. He now, by default, will likely be asked to move back to the blue line and eat minutes for Seabrook and Campbell until Johnsson returns. Unfortuntely this takes his mammoth frame away from the crease, but he needs to be a smart force against the boards moving forward. He’s too big to skate silently though 60 minutes.
Brouwer’s one of the top hitters on the team and was the one guy on the Chicago roster to step up and say something to Ovechkin as he was being (wisely) escorted off the United Center ice on Sunday. The Catch-22 here, however, is that he’ll be needed to be an offensive force in the absense of Byfuglien in the forward rotation. He’s been great all season at appropriately handling the business in the corners, and needs to do that more now than ever.
I know they’re not getting a lot of minutes, but these two guys need to bring the energy they’re loved for providing. With Byfuglien potentially moving back to the blue line, a slot might open for Fraser to dress more regularly moving forward. The trouble with these two is that the Blackhawks cannot afford to spend much time killing penalties with their depleted defense group. Fraser has been watching from the suite because he takes too many penalties.
Boynton was the only player on the Hawks to finally step up and fight Wisniewski on Wednesday night. He’s always been a physical player, and has been revered by teammates throughout his career for handling the ugly business of sticking up for teammates when needed. With the injuries the Hawks have to deal with moving forward, Boynton might have to become the physical enforcer on the blue line as we get closer to the playoffs.
Bickell’s a big body sitting in Rockford that has shown a willingness in limited NHL action to step up and be a force on the ice. Despite averaging only a shade over nine minutes per game in 14 appearances this year, Bickell’s been credited with 17 hits and has one fighting major. At 6’4 and 225 pounds, Bickell’s size might be what the Hawks need to come up from Rockford and handle some dirty work.